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1.  Personalized medicine: risk prediction, targeted therapies and mobile health technology 
BMC Medicine  2014;12:37.
Personalized medicine is increasingly being employed across many areas of clinical practice, as genes associated with specific diseases are discovered and targeted therapies are developed. Mobile apps are also beginning to be used in medicine with the aim of providing a personalized approach to disease management. In some areas of medicine, patient-tailored risk prediction and treatment are applied routinely in the clinic, whereas in other fields, more work is required to translate scientific advances into individualized treatment. In this forum article, we asked specialists in oncology, neurology, endocrinology and mobile health technology to discuss where we are in terms of personalized medicine, and address their visions for the future and the challenges that remain in their respective fields.
PMCID: PMC3938085  PMID: 24580858
Diabetes; Genetics; Mobile health; Oncology; Personalized medicine; Smartphone; Stroke; Targeted therapy
2.  Randomized Phase III Placebo-Controlled Trial of Letrozole Plus Oral Temsirolimus As First-Line Endocrine Therapy in Postmenopausal Women With Locally Advanced or Metastatic Breast Cancer 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2012;31(2):195-202.
Recent data showed improvement in progression-free survival (PFS) when adding everolimus to exemestane in patients with advanced breast cancer experiencing recurrence/progression after nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor (AI) therapy. Here, we report clinical outcomes of combining the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitor temsirolimus with letrozole in AI-naive patients.
Patients and Methods
This phase III randomized placebo-controlled study tested efficacy/safety of first-line oral letrozole 2.5 mg daily/temsirolimus 30 mg daily (5 days every 2 weeks) versus letrozole/placebo in 1,112 patients with AI-naive, hormone receptor–positive advanced disease. An independent data monitoring committee recommended study termination for futility at the second preplanned interim analysis (382 PFS events).
Patients were balanced (median age, 63 years; 10% stage III, 40% had received adjuvant endocrine therapy). Those on letrozole/temsirolimus experienced more grade 3 to 4 events (37% v 24%). There was no overall improvement in primary end point PFS (median, 9 months; hazard ratio [HR], 0.90; 95% CI, 0.76 to 1.07; P = .25) nor in the 40% patient subset with prior adjuvant endocrine therapy. An exploratory analysis showed improved PFS favoring letrozole/temsirolimus in patients ≤ age 65 years (9.0 v 5.6 months; HR, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.60 to 0.93; P = .009), which was separately examined by an exploratory analysis of 5-month PFS using subpopulation treatment effect pattern plot methodology (P = .003).
Adding temsirolimus to letrozole did not improve PFS as first-line therapy in patients with AI-naive advanced breast cancer. Exploratory analyses of benefit in younger postmenopausal patients require external confirmation.
PMCID: PMC3532391  PMID: 23233719
3.  Publication of Tumor Marker Research Results: The Necessity for Complete and Transparent Reporting 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2012;30(34):4223-4232.
Clinical management decisions for patients with cancer are increasingly being guided by prognostic and predictive markers. Use of these markers should be based on a sufficiently comprehensive body of unbiased evidence to establish that benefits to patients outweigh harms and to justify expenditure of health care dollars. Careful assessments of the clinical utility of markers by using comparative effectiveness research methods are urgently needed to more rigorously summarize and evaluate the evidence, but multiple factors have made such assessments difficult. The literature on tumor markers is plagued by nonpublication bias, selective reporting, and incomplete reporting. Several measures to address these problems are discussed, including development of a tumor marker study registry, greater attention to assay analytic performance and specimen quality, use of more rigorous study designs and analysis plans to establish clinical utility, and adherence to higher standards for reporting tumor marker studies. More complete and transparent reporting by adhering to criteria such as BRISQ [Biospecimen Reporting for Improved Study Quality] criteria for reporting details about specimens and REMARK [Reporting Recommendations for Tumor Marker Prognostic Studies] criteria for reporting a multitude of aspects relating to study design, analysis, and results, is essential for reliable assessment of study quality, detection of potential biases, and proper interpretation of study findings. Adopting these measures will improve the quality of the body of evidence available for comparative effectiveness research and enhance the ability to establish the clinical utility of prognostic and predictive tumor markers.
PMCID: PMC3504327  PMID: 23071235
4.  Predictors of Aromatase Inhibitor Discontinuation as a Result of Treatment-Emergent Symptoms in Early-Stage Breast Cancer 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2012;30(9):936-942.
Aromatase inhibitors (AIs) are effective for treatment of hormone receptor–positive breast cancer, but adherence and persistence with therapy are poor. Predictors of treatment discontinuation are not clearly defined. It is unknown whether patients with intolerable toxicity from one AI are able to tolerate another.
Patients and Methods
Women with early-stage breast cancer initiating AI therapy were enrolled onto a multicenter, prospective, open-label randomized trial of exemestane versus letrozole. Patients completed symptom questionnaires at baseline and serially during therapy. Patients who developed AI-associated intolerable symptoms and discontinued treatment were given the option to switch to the other study AI after a 2- to 8-week washout period.
Of the 503 enrolled women, 32.4% discontinued initial AI therapy within 2 years because of adverse effects; 24.3% discontinued specifically because of musculoskeletal symptoms. Median time to treatment discontinuation as a result of any symptom was 6.1 months (range, 0.1 to 21.2 months) and was significantly shorter in patients randomly assigned to exemestane (hazard ratio [HR], 1.5; 95% CI, 1.1 to 2.1; P = .02). Younger age and taxane-based chemotherapy were associated with higher likelihood of treatment discontinuation (HR, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.02 to 1.9; P = .04; and HR, 1.9; 95% CI, 1.00 to 3.6; P = .048, respectively). Of the 83 patients who chose to switch to the second AI, 38.6% continued the alternate AI for a median of 13.7 months.
Premature discontinuation of initial AI therapy as a result of symptoms is common, although more than one third of patients may be able to tolerate a different AI medication. Additional research is needed to identify predictive tools and interventions for AI-associated treatment-emergent symptoms.
PMCID: PMC3341106  PMID: 22331951
5.  Effect of Estrogen Depletion on Pain Sensitivity in Aromatase Inhibitor-Treated Women with Early-Stage Breast Cancer 
Aromatase inhibitors (AI), which are used to treat breast cancer, inhibit estrogen production in postmenopausal women. AI-associated musculoskeletal symptoms (AIMSS) occur in approximately half of treated women, and lead to treatment discontinuation in 20–30%. The etiology may be due in part to estrogen deprivation. In premenopausal women, lower estrogen levels have been associated with increased pain, as well as with impairment of descending pain inhibitory pathways, which may be a risk factor for developing chronic pain. We prospectively tested whether AI-induced estrogen deprivation alters pain sensitivity, thereby increasing the risk of developing AIMSS. Fifty postmenopausal breast cancer patients underwent pressure pain testing and conditioned pain modulation (CPM) assessment prior to AI initiation and after 3 and 6 months. At baseline, 26 of 40 (65%) assessed patients demonstrated impaired CPM, which was greater in those who had previously received chemotherapy (p=0.006). No statistically significant change in pressure pain threshold or CPM was identified following estrogen deprivation. In addition, there was no association with either measure of pain sensitivity and change in patient-reported pain with AI therapy. AIMSS are not likely due to decreased pain threshold or impaired CPM prior to treatment initiation, or to effects of estrogen depletion on pain sensitivity. NCT01814397.
This article presents our findings of the effect of estrogen deprivation on objective measures of pain sensitivity. In postmenopausal women, medication-induced estrogen depletion did not result in an identifiable change in pressure pain threshold or conditioned pain modulation. Impaired conditioned pain modulation may be associated with chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC4063362  PMID: 24462504
pain threshold; conditioned pain modulation; breast cancer; estrogen deprivation; aromatase inhibitor
6.  Phase II Trial of Simple Oral Therapy with Capecitabine and Cyclophosphamide in Patients with Metastatic Breast Cancer: SWOG S0430 
The Oncologist  2012;17(2):179-187.
A simple oral combination of capecitabine and cyclophosphamide for the treatment of patients with metastatic breast cancer was evaluated. The addition of cyclophosphamide did not result in outcomes superior to those seen with capecitabine alone.
Learning Objectives:
After completing this course, the reader will be able to: Compare outcomes in patients treated with capecitabine plus CPA with those of capecitabine monotherapy and combination therapy with bevacizumab, sorafenib, or ixabepilone.Identify patients for whom single-agent capecitabine is recommended.
This article is available for continuing medical education credit at
Interest in oral agents for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer (MBC) has increased because many patients prefer oral to i.v. regimens. We evaluated a simple oral combination of capecitabine with cyclophosphamide (CPA) for MBC.
The trial was designed to determine whether or not combination therapy would achieve a 42% response rate (RR) using the Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST) in MBC. Patients with two or fewer prior chemotherapy regimens for MBC were eligible. Those with estrogen receptor–positive MBC had to have progressed on endocrine therapy. Patients had measurable disease or elevated mucin (MUC)-1 antigen and received CPA, 100 mg daily on days 1–14, and capecitabine, 1,500 mg twice daily on days 8–21, in 21-day cycles.
In 96 eligible patients, the median progression-free survival (PFS) interval was 5.9 months (95% confidence interval [CI], 3.7–8.0 months) and median overall survival (OS) time was 18.8 months (95% CI, 13.1–22.0 months). The RR was 36% (95% CI, 26%–48%) in 80 patients with measurable disease. The MUC-1 antigen RR was 33% (95% CI, 20%–48%), occurring in 15 of 46 patients with elevated MUC-1 antigen. Toxicity was mild, with no treatment-related deaths.
PFS, OS, and RR outcomes with capecitabine plus CPA compare favorably with those of capecitabine monotherapy and combination therapy with bevacizumab, sorafenib, or ixabepilone. The addition of these other agents to capecitabine does not improve OS time in MBC patients, and this single-arm study does not suggest that the addition of CPA to capecitabine has this potential in an unselected MBC population. When OS prolongation is the goal, clinicians should choose single-agent capecitabine.
PMCID: PMC3286166  PMID: 22267853
Metastatic breast cancer; Capecitabine; Cyclophosphamide; Oral therapy
7.  Promoting Quality and Evidence-Based Care in Early-Stage Breast Cancer Follow-up 
Evidence-based guidelines for long-term follow-up of early-stage breast cancer patients developed by oncology societies in the United States and Europe recommend that breast cancer survivors undergo regular evaluation with history and physical examination, as well as annual mammography. Routine blood tests, circulating tumor markers, and/or surveillance imaging studies beyond mammography are not recommended in the absence of concerning symptoms or physical examination findings because of lack of supportive clinical evidence. Despite these guidelines, studies have shown that 20% to 40% of oncologists assess serum tumor markers as part of routine monitoring of early-stage breast cancer patients. As part of efforts to both address the financial challenges confronting the health-care system and optimize patient outcomes, the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Cost of Care Task Force identified adherence to breast cancer surveillance guidelines as an opportunity to improve care and reduce cost. However, these recommendations are based on trials done in an era of outdated technology and limited therapeutic options. It is possible that recent improvements in diagnostics and treatments could make earlier detection of recurrent disease important for improving both survival and quality of life outcomes. Research is necessary to further inform optimal breast cancer follow-up strategies, which could impact these recommendations. At this time, outside of well-conducted clinical trials, there is no role for ordering routine serial blood or imaging tests in monitoring for recurrence in early-stage breast cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC4311189  PMID: 24627271
8.  An International Ki67 Reproducibility Study 
In breast cancer, immunohistochemical assessment of proliferation using the marker Ki67 has potential use in both research and clinical management. However, lack of consistency across laboratories has limited Ki67’s value. A working group was assembled to devise a strategy to harmonize Ki67 analysis and increase scoring concordance. Toward that goal, we conducted a Ki67 reproducibility study.
Eight laboratories received 100 breast cancer cases arranged into 1-mm core tissue microarrays—one set stained by the participating laboratory and one set stained by the central laboratory, both using antibody MIB-1. Each laboratory scored Ki67 as percentage of positively stained invasive tumor cells using its own method. Six laboratories repeated scoring of 50 locally stained cases on 3 different days. Sources of variation were analyzed using random effects models with log2-transformed measurements. Reproducibility was quantified by intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC), and the approximate two-sided 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the true intraclass correlation coefficients in these experiments were provided.
Intralaboratory reproducibility was high (ICC = 0.94; 95% CI = 0.93 to 0.97). Interlaboratory reproducibility was only moderate (central staining: ICC = 0.71, 95% CI = 0.47 to 0.78; local staining: ICC = 0.59, 95% CI = 0.37 to 0.68). Geometric mean of Ki67 values for each laboratory across the 100 cases ranged 7.1% to 23.9% with central staining and 6.1% to 30.1% with local staining. Factors contributing to interlaboratory discordance included tumor region selection, counting method, and subjective assessment of staining positivity. Formal counting methods gave more consistent results than visual estimation.
Substantial variability in Ki67 scoring was observed among some of the world’s most experienced laboratories. Ki67 values and cutoffs for clinical decision-making cannot be transferred between laboratories without standardizing scoring methodology because analytical validity is limited.
PMCID: PMC3888090  PMID: 24203987
9.  Germline genetic variants in ABCB1, ABCC1, and ALDH1A1 and risk of hematological and gastrointestinal toxicities in a SWOG Phase III trial S0221 for breast cancer 
The pharmacogenomics journal  2013;14(3):241-247.
Hematological and gastrointestinal toxicities are common among patients treated with cyclophosphamide and doxorubicin for breast cancer. To examine whether single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in key pharmacokinetic genes were associated with risk of hematological or gastrointestinal toxicity, we analyzed 78 SNPs in ABCB1, ABCC1 and ALDH1A1 in 882 breast cancer patients enrolled in the SWOG trial S0221 and treated with cyclophosphamide and doxorubicin. A two-SNP haplotype in ALDH1A1 was associated with an increased risk of grade 3 and 4 hematological toxicity (odds ratio [OR]=1.44, 95% confidence interval [CI]=1.16-1.78), which remained significant after correction for multiple comparisons. In addition, 4 SNPs in ABCC1 were associated with gastrointestinal toxicity. Our findings provide evidence that SNPs in pharmacokinetic genes may have an impact on the development of chemotherapy-related toxicities. This is a necessary first step towards building a clinical tool that will help assess risk of adverse outcomes prior to administration of chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3940691  PMID: 23999597
breast cancer; chemotherapy; toxicity; pharmacokinetics; pharmacogenetics; ALDH1A1
10.  Monitoring Serial Changes in Circulating Human Breast Cancer Cells in Mruine Xenograft Models 
Cancer research  2008;68(14):5529-5532.
Circulating tumor cells (CTC) are emerging as a powerful prognostic and predictive biomarker in several types of cancer, including breast, colon, and prostate. Studies of CTC in metastasis and further development of CTC as a biomarker in cancer have been limited by the inability to repetitively monitor CTC in mouse models of cancer. We have validated a method to enumerate CTC in blood samples obtained from living mice using a modified version of an in vitro diagnostic system for quantifying CTC in patients. Different routes of blood collection were tested to identify a method to reproducibly recover CTC from tumor-bearing mice without interference from contaminating normal murine epithelial cells. CTC are present in blood samples from mice bearing orthotopic xenografts of several different breast cancer cell lines and primary breast cancer cells from patient biopsies. We also show that this technology can be used for serial monitoring of CTC in mouse xenograft models of human breast cancer. These results establish a new method for studying CTC in mouse models of epithelial cancer, providing the foundation for studies of molecular regulation of CTC in cancer and CTC as biomarker for therapeutic efficacy.
PMCID: PMC2789403  PMID: 18632603
11.  Concordance Between CYP2D6 Genotypes Obtained From Tumor-Derived and Germline DNA 
Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tumors (FFPETs) are a valuable source of DNA for genotype association studies and are often the only germline DNA resource from cancer clinical trials. The anti-estrogen tamoxifen is metabolized into endoxifen by CYP2D6, leading to the hypothesis that patients with certain CYP2D6 genotypes may not receive benefit because of their inability to activate the drug. Studies testing this hypothesis using FFPETs have provided conflicting results. It has been postulated that CYP2D6 genotype determined using FFPET may not be accurate because of somatic tumor alterations. In this study, we determined the concordance between CYP2D6 genotypes generated using 3 tissue sources (FFPETs; formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded unaffected lymph nodes [FFPELNs]; and whole blood cells [WBCs]) from 122 breast cancer patients. Compared with WBCs, FFPET and FFPELN genotypes were highly concordant (>94%), as were the predicted CYP2D6 metabolic phenotypes (>97%). We conclude that CYP2D6 genotypes obtained from FFPETs accurately represent the patient’s CYP2D6 metabolic phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3888280  PMID: 23958736
13.  Recommendations for Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 Testing in Breast Cancer 
To update the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)/College of American Pathologists (CAP) guideline recommendations for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) testing in breast cancer to improve the accuracy of HER2 testing and its utility as a predictive marker in invasive breast cancer.
ASCO/CAP convened an Update Committee that included coauthors of the 2007 guideline to conduct a systematic literature review and update recommendations for optimal HER2 testing.
The Update Committee identified criteria and areas requiring clarification to improve the accuracy of HER2 testing by immunohistochemistry (IHC) or in situ hybridization (ISH). The guideline was reviewed and approved by both organizations.
The Update Committee recommends that HER2 status (HER2 negative or positive) be determined in all patients with invasive (early stage or recurrence) breast cancer on the basis of one or more HER2 test results (negative, equivocal, or positive). Testing criteria define HER2-positive status when (on observing within an area of tumor that amounts to >10% of contiguous and homogeneous tumor cells) there is evidence of protein overexpression (IHC) or gene amplification (HER2 copy number or HER2/CEP17 ratio by ISH based on counting at least 20 cells within the area). If results are equivocal (revised criteria), reflex testing should be performed using an alternative assay (IHC or ISH). Repeat testing should be considered if results seem discordant with other histopathologic findings. Laboratories should demonstrate high concordance with a validated HER2 test on a sufficiently large and representative set of specimens. Testing must be performed in a laboratory accredited by CAP or another accrediting entity. The Update Committee urges providers and health systems to cooperate to ensure the highest quality testing.
PMCID: PMC4086638  PMID: 24099077
14.  Prediction of Postchemotherapy Ovarian Function Using Markers of Ovarian Reserve 
The Oncologist  2013;19(1):68-74.
Chemotherapy results in transient or permanent ovarian failure in the majority of women. Prechemotherapy assessment of serum anti-Müllerian hormone may be useful for predicting postchemotherapy ovarian function. This finding has implications for decision making about adjuvant endocrine therapy in premenopausal women treated with chemotherapy.
Learning Objectives
Explain the association between clinical factors and postchemotherapy ovarian function.Explain the association between biochemical markers and postchemotherapy ovarian function.Discuss the role that age and anti-Müllerian hormone may play in prediction of postchemotherapy ovarian function status.
Reproductive-aged women frequently receive both chemotherapy and endocrine therapy as part of their treatment regimen for early stage hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. Chemotherapy results in transient or permanent ovarian failure in the majority of women. The difficulty in determining which patients will recover ovarian function has implications for adjuvant endocrine therapy decision making. We hypothesized that pretreatment serum anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) and inhibin B concentrations would predict for ovarian function following chemotherapy.
Pre- and perimenopausal women aged 25–50 years with newly diagnosed breast cancer were enrolled. Subjects underwent phlebotomy for assessment of serum AMH, inhibin B, follicle-stimulating hormone, and estradiol prior to chemotherapy and 1 month and 1 year following completion of treatment. Associations among hormone concentrations, clinical factors, and biochemically assessed ovarian function were assessed.
Twenty-seven subjects were evaluable for the primary endpoint. Median age was 41. Twenty subjects (74.1%) experienced recovery of ovarian function within 18 months. Of the 26 evaluable subjects assessed prior to chemotherapy, 19 (73.1%) had detectable serum concentrations of AMH. The positive predictive value of a detectable baseline serum AMH concentration for recovery of ovarian function was 94.7%, and the negative predictive value was 85.7%. On univariate analysis, younger age and detectable serum AMH concentration at chemotherapy initiation were predictive of increased likelihood of recovery of ovarian function.
Prechemotherapy assessment of serum AMH may be useful for predicting postchemotherapy ovarian function. This finding has implications for decision making about adjuvant endocrine therapy in premenopausal women treated with chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3903057  PMID: 24319018
Breast cancer; Chemotherapy; Ovarian function; Anti-Müllerian hormone
16.  Sensitive capture of circulating tumour cells by functionalised graphene oxide nanosheets 
Nature nanotechnology  2013;8(10):735-741.
The spread of cancer throughout the body is driven by circulating tumour cells (CTCs)1. These cells detach from the primary tumour and move from the blood stream to a new site of subsequent tumour growth. They also carry information about the primary tumour and have the potential to be valuable biomarkers for disease diagnosis and progression, and for the molecular characterization of certain biological properties of the tumour. However, the limited sensitivity and specificity of current methods to measure and study these cells in patient blood samples prevent the realization of their full clinical potential. The use of microfluidic devices is a promising method for isolating CTCs2, 3; however, the devices are reliant on three-dimensional structures, which limit further characterization and expansion of cells on the chip. Here we demonstrate an effective approach to isolate CTCs from blood samples of pancreatic, breast and lung cancer patients, by using functionalised graphene oxide nanosheets on a patterned gold surface. CTCs were captured with high sensitivity at low concentration of target cells (73% ± 32.4 at 3–5 cells/mL blood).
PMCID: PMC4017624  PMID: 24077027
17.  Breast Cancer, Version 3.2013 
These NCCN Guidelines Insights highlight the important updates specific to the management of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer in the 2013 version of the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology for Breast Cancer. These include new first-line and subsequent therapy options for patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3991132  PMID: 23847214
18.  Genetic Associations With Toxicity-related Discontinuation of Aromatase Inhibitor Therapy for Breast Cancer 
Up to 25% of patients discontinue adjuvant aromatase inhibitor (AI) therapy due to intolerable symptoms. Predictors of which patients will be unable to tolerate these medications have not been defined. We hypothesized that inherited variants in candidate genes are associated with treatment discontinuation because of AI-associated toxicity.
We prospectively evaluated reasons for treatment discontinuation in women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer initiating adjuvant AI through a multicenter, prospective, randomized clinical trial of exemestane versus letrozole. Using multiple genetic models, we evaluated potential associations between discontinuation of AI therapy because of toxicity and 138 variants in 24 candidate genes, selected a priori, primarily with roles in estrogen metabolism and signaling. To account for multiple comparisons, statistical significance was defined as p<0.00036.
Of the 467 enrolled patients with available germline DNA, 152 (33%) discontinued AI therapy because of toxicity. Using a recessive statistical model, an intronic variant in ESR1 (rs9322336) was associated with increased risk of musculoskeletal toxicity-related exemestane discontinuation (HR 5.0 (95% CI 2.1–11.8), p<0.0002).
An inherited variant potentially affecting estrogen signaling may be associated with exemestane-associated toxicity, which could partially account for intra-patient differences in AI tolerability. Validation of this finding is required.
PMCID: PMC3646626  PMID: 23546553
breast cancer; aromatase inhibitor; single nucleotide polymorphism; treatment discontinuation; toxicity
19.  Combination Anastrozole and Fulvestrant in Metastatic Breast Cancer 
The New England journal of medicine  2012;367(5):435-444.
The aromatase inhibitor anastrozole inhibits estrogen synthesis. Fulvestrant binds and accelerates degradation of estrogen receptors. We hypothesized that these two agents in combination might be more effective than anastrozole alone in patients with hormone-receptor (HR)–positive metastatic breast cancer.
Postmenopausal women with previously untreated metastatic disease were randomly assigned, in a 1:1 ratio, to receive either 1 mg of anastrozole orally every day (group 1), with crossover to fulvestrant alone strongly encouraged if the disease progressed, or anastrozole and fulvestrant in combination (group 2). Patients were stratified according to prior or no prior receipt of adjuvant tamoxifen therapy. Fulvestrant was administered intramuscularly at a dose of 500 mg on day 1 and 250 mg on days 14 and 28 and monthly thereafter. The primary end point was progressionfree survival, with overall survival designated as a prespecified secondary outcome.
The median progression-free survival was 13.5 months in group 1 and 15.0 months in group 2 (hazard ratio for progression or death with combination therapy, 0.80; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.68 to 0.94; P = 0.007 by the log-rank test). The combination therapy was generally more effective than anastrozole alone in all subgroups, with no significant interactions. Overall survival was also longer with combination therapy (median, 41.3 months in group 1 and 47.7 months in group 2; hazard ratio for death, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.65 to 1.00; P = 0.05 by the log-rank test), despite the fact that 41% of the patients in group 1 crossed over to fulvestrant after progression. Three deaths that were possibly associated with treatment occurred in group 2. The rates of grade 3 to 5 toxic effects did not differ significantly between the two groups.
The combination of anastrozole and fulvestrant was superior to anastrozole alone or sequential anastrozole and fulvestrant for the treatment of HR-positive metastatic breast cancer, despite the use of a dose of fulvestrant that was below the current standard.
PMCID: PMC3951300  PMID: 22853014
20.  Randomized Clinical Trial of a Brief and Extensive Dyadic Intervention for Advanced Cancer Patients and Their Family Caregivers 
Psycho-oncology  2012;22(3):555-563.
Few intervention programs assist patients and their family caregivers to manage advanced cancer and maintain their quality of life (QOL). This study examined: 1) whether patient-caregiver dyads (i.e., pairs) randomly assigned to a Brief or Extensive dyadic intervention (the FOCUS Program) had better outcomes than dyads randomly assigned to usual care, and 2) if patients' risk for distress (RFD) and other factors moderated the effect of the Brief or Extensive Program on outcomes.
Advanced cancer patients and their caregivers (N=484 dyads) were stratified by patients' baseline risk for distress (high versus low), cancer type (lung, colorectal, breast, prostate), and research site, and then randomly assigned to a Brief (3-session) or Extensive (6-session) intervention or Control. The interventions offered dyads information and support. Intermediary outcomes were: appraisals (i.e., appraisal of illness/caregiving, uncertainty, hopelessness) and resources (i.e., coping, interpersonal relationships, and self-efficacy). The primary outcome was QOL. Data were collected prior to intervention and post-intervention (3 and 6 months from baseline). The final sample was 302 dyads. Repeated Measures MANOVA was used to evaluate outcomes.
Significant Group by Time interactions showed there was improvement in dyads' coping (p<.05), self-efficacy (p<.05), and social QOL (p<.01), and in caregivers' emotional QOL (p<.05). Effects varied by intervention dose. Most effects were found at 3 months only. Risk for distress accounted for very few moderation effects.
Both Brief and Extensive programs had positive outcomes for patient-caregiver dyads, but few sustained effects. Patient-caregiver dyads benefit when viewed as the “unit of care.”
PMCID: PMC3387514  PMID: 22290823
Oncology; cancer; randomized clinical trial; family caregiver; advanced cancer; quality of life; intervention dose; risk for distress
21.  HER2 drives luminal breast cancer stem cells in the absence of HER2 amplification: Implications for efficacy of adjuvant trastuzumab 
Cancer research  2013;73(5):1635-1646.
Although current breast cancer treatment guidelines limit the use of HER2 blocking agents to tumors with HER2 gene amplification, recent retrospective analyses suggest that a wider group of patients may benefit from this therapy. Utilizing breast cancer cell lines, mouse xenograft models and matched human primary and metastatic tissues, we demonstrate that HER2 is selectively expressed in and regulates self-renewal of the cancer stem cell population in ER+, HER2− luminal breast cancers. Although trastuzumab had no effects on the growth of established luminal breast cancer mouse xenografts, administration after tumor inoculation blocked subsequent tumor growth. HER2 expression is increased in luminal tumors grown in mouse bone xenografts, as well as in bone metastases from breast cancer patients compared to matched primary tumors. Furthermore this increase in HER2 protein expression was not due to gene amplification but rather was mediated by RANK-ligand in the bone microenvironment. These studies suggest that the clinical efficacy of adjuvant trastuzumab may relate to the ability of this agent to target the cancer stem cell population in a process that does not require HER2 gene amplification. Furthermore these studies support a cancer stem cell model in which maximal clinical benefit is achieved when cancer stem cell targeting agents are administered in the adjuvant setting.
PMCID: PMC3600586  PMID: 23442322
22.  Comparison of Changes in the Lipid Profile of Postmenopausal Women With Early Stage Breast Cancer Treated With Exemestane or Letrozole 
Journal of clinical pharmacology  2011;52(12):10.1177/0091270011424153.
Effects of aromatase inhibitor (AI) therapy on the plasma lipid profile are not clear. Here the authors describe changes in fasting lipids (total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein [HDL], low-density lipoprotein [LDL], and triglycerides) before and after 3 months of exemestane or letrozole treatment. HDL was reduced in the entire cohort (P < .001) and in the exemestane group (P < .001) but unchanged in the letrozole group (P = .169). LDL was increased in the entire cohort (P = .005) and in the letrozole group (P = .002) but unchanged in the exemestane group (P = .361). This effect was at least partially attributable to washout of tamoxifen as only patients with prior use of tamoxifen experienced a significant increase in LDL. Baseline HDL was an independent predictor of the change in HDL (r2 = −0.128, P < .001), and prior tamoxifen use was associated with greater increases in LDL (r2 = 0.057, P < .001). Use of lipid-altering medications did not protect against the exemestane-induced drop in HDL or the increase in LDL observed in women with prior use of tamoxifen taking letrozole. In conclusion, AI treatment and/or washout of tamoxifen induced detrimental changes in the lipid profile of postmenopausal women with breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3616612  PMID: 22174434
exemestane; letrozole; breast cancer; lipid profile; cholesterol
23.  OMICS-based personalized oncology: if it is worth doing, it is worth doing well! 
BMC Medicine  2013;11:221.
The era of Personalized Medicine implies getting the right treatment to the right patient at the right schedule and dose at the right time. Tumor biomarker tests are keys to accomplishing this goal successfully. However, much of the translational research regarding tumor biomarker tests has been haphazard, often using data and specimen sets of convenience and ignoring many of the principles of the scientific method. In papers published simultaneously in BMC Medicine and Nature, McShane and colleagues have proposed a checklist of criteria that should be followed by investigators planning to conduct prospective clinical trials directed towards generating high levels of evidence to demonstrate whether a tumor biomarker test has clinical utility for a specific context. These criteria were generated in response to a roadmap reported by a committee convened by the U.S. Institute of Medicine for generation of omics-based biomarker tests. Taken together with several other initiatives to increase the rigor of tumor biomarker research, these criteria will increase the perception of value for tumor biomarker test research and application in the clinic.
Please see related article:
PMCID: PMC3876724  PMID: 24228698
Tumor biomarker tests; Clinical investigation
24.  Preclinical and Clinical Studies of Gamma Secretase Inhibitors with Docetaxel on Human Breast Tumors 
Accumulating evidence supports the existence of breast cancer stem cells (BCSCs), which are characterized by their capacity to self-renew and divide indefinitely, and resistance to conventional therapies. The Notch pathway is important for stem cell renewal, and is a potential target for BCSC-directed therapy.
Experimental Design
Using human breast tumorgraft studies, we evaluated the impact of gamma secretase inhibitors (GSI) on the BCSC population and the efficacy of combining GSI with docetaxel treatment. The mouse experimental therapy paralleled a concurrent clinical trial in advanced breast cancer patients, designed to determine the maximally tolerated dose of the GSI, MK-0752, administered sequentially with docetaxel, and to evaluate BCSC markers in serial tumor biopsies.
Treatment with GSI reduced BCSCs in MC1 and BMC-2147 tumorgrafts by inhibition of the Notch pathway. GSI enhanced the efficacy of docetaxel in preclinical studies. In the clinical trial, 30 patients with advanced breast cancer were treated with escalating doses of MK-0752 plus docetaxel. Clinically meaningful doses of both drugs were possible, with manageable toxicity and preliminary evidence of efficacy. A decrease in CD44+/CD24−, ALDH+, and MSFE were observed in tumors of patients undergoing serial biopsies.
These preclinical data demonstrate that pharmacological inhibition of the Notch pathway can reduce BCSCs in breast tumorgraft models. The clinical trial demonstrates feasibility of combination GSI and chemotherapy, and together these results encourage further study of Notch pathway inhibitors in combination with chemotherapy in breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3602220  PMID: 23340294
breast cancer; Phase I clinical trial; cancer stem cells; agents with other mechanisms of action; Notch inhibitors
25.  Metastatic Breast Cancer, Version 1.2012 
These NCCN Guidelines Insights highlight the important updates/changes specific to the management of metastatic breast cancer in the 2012 version of the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines) for Breast Cancer. These changes/updates include the issue of retesting of biomarkers (estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) on recurrent disease, new information regarding first-line combination endocrine therapy for metastatic disease, a new section on monitoring of patients with metastatic disease, and new information on endocrine therapy combined with an mTOR inhibitor as a subsequent therapeutic option.
PMCID: PMC3753191  PMID: 22773798

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